Covid School, Day 1: Zzzzzz….

By Simon Bazelon. When students have more common sense than the adults.

“In a recent Board of Alders hearing, the superintendent explained that the early start time is intended to keep students in their usual routine. But we need to recognize that we’re all out of our routines already and participating in a different kind of school. Navigating school online during a pandemic is difficult enough without the added challenge of a lack of sleep.

Second, classes should be shortened. Eighty minutes is simply too long to expect students to focus on an online lesson. Teachers should include intermittent breaks when students can get away from their screens, and should consider not using up the full block of class time.”

Thursday Assorted Links

1. Why I’m Learning More With Distance Learning Than I Do In School. By Veronique Mintz, 13 years old. Starts strong.

“Talking out of turn. Destroying classroom materials. Disrespecting teachers. Blurting out answers during tests. Students pushing, kicking, hitting one another and even rolling on the ground. This is what happens in my school every single day. . . . Based on my peers’ behavior, you might guess that I’m in second or fourth grade. But I’m actually about to enter high school in New York City, and, during my three years of middle school, these sorts of disruptions occurred repeatedly in any given 42-minute class period.

2. Don’t forget the other pandemic killing thousands of Americans.

3. How Yukon’s ‘one caribou apart’ physical distancing campaign became a sensation. I really miss Canada.

4. Was Donald Trump good at baseball? I couldn’t help but smile throughout this one.

Trump said he shoulda, coulda, woulda gone pro, but an intrepid reporter dug deep into the archives only to find:

“Combined, the nine box scores I unearthed give Trump a 4 for 29 batting record in his sophomore, junior, and senior seasons, with three runs batted in and a single run scored. Trump’s batting average in those nine games: an underwhelming .138.”

Then the reporter asked Keith Law, a senior baseball writer for the Athletic and author of The Inside Game who covers the MLB draft, if Trump’s numbers sounded like those of a pro prospect.

“‘There’s no chance,’ said Law, who once worked in the front office of the Toronto Blue Jays assessing high school players. ‘You don’t hit .138 for some podunk, cold-weather high school playing the worst competition you could possibly imagine. You wouldn’t even get recruited for Division I baseball programs, let alone by pro teams. That’s totally unthinkable. It’s absolutely laughable. He hit .138—he couldn’t fucking hit, that’s pretty clear.'”

That may be my favorite quote about Trump of all time. Just flip the bat and touch em’ all.

5. The Best Television Shows To Stream Now.

Reinventing College

There’s lots of talk of radical change as a result of the pandemic. I think a lot of it is premature.

Things may never be the exact same, but that doesn’t mean an era of tele-medicine and working remotely will be ushered in as soon as we receive an “all clear”.

We’re a forgetful people. By 2021, I predict most of the changes, like not shaking hands, will be relatively subtle.

I’m most intrigued by all the talk of higher education disruption. Not just the financial destruction of institutions that were already on the brink, but a major shift to on-line learning. Specifically, some like Scott Galloway predict a Big Tech firm like Google will partner with someone like MIT, or maybe Apple will partner with Stanford or Cal, to offer 2-3 year programs to 50x more students than at present for a fraction of the current costs. Mid-tier and lesser institutions will all suffer greatly; and this shift will be accompanied by major reductions in faculty and staff everywhere; with a few, surviving all-star faculty, making a lot more.

The prognosticators think this could happen in the next five years, which reminds me of all the over-excited driverless car talk from five years ago.

Those types of changes probably will happen, I just wouldn’t bet much money they will happen as fast as many opinion leaders are currently thinking.

The educational status quo is far more resistant to change than even the “education experts” realize. Probably best to measure “disruption” in decades.

On-line Learning At Its Best

October 15, 2011. Seattle Craigslist ad.

I need help with online class.

I am taking online classes. I need somebody to help me do it. This is my first online class i feel a little bit overwhelmed. First class is American Government and second one US History. What you need to do? American Government: every week i get assignment from teacher you need to read chapter (book will be provided) answer the questions, write your thoughts, participate in chat discussions at least two times a week and do quiz. Quiz has about 30 questions time is limited 25 min. You have to be prepared. In the end of quarter you have to be abel to pass final exam. US History you just need to read whatever will be provided every week, participate in chat discussion about 2 to 4 times , four times a quarter lead particular discussion. There will be two final exam you will need to pass it in December.
All classes will be done by December 21i guess. And then new quarter will be started.
Please write me a little bit about yourself. I need to know if you are currently in collage or not. If you have or had taken similar classes online. You have to have computer, internet and be confident to pass those classes. Pay will be discussed in person.
Start right away !
Here’s a draft of what I thought I might write the ad writer:
I am not currently in collage; however, I was once. It was in collage that I learn to use semi-colons. After collage i taught American Government and US History so i can be prepared to answer 30 questions in 25 min. Thank you for providing book. I promise to pass the two final exam in December. I am a little nervous about leading four particular discussion, but will work through it. I have computer and internet and I like labradoodles and long walks on the beach. Pay is not important, just helping someone feeling a little bit overwhelmed enough. Ready to start!
And there’s this too.

Is Online Learning A Good or Bad Thing?

I know you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube, but is the steadily increasing popularity of on-line learning a good or bad thing?

Depends. If all one wants students to do is recall mostly factual information on mostly objective exams, online learning makes a lot more sense than everyone meeting at brick and mortar locations at the same time.

But if it’s important that students learn to think critically, analyze content, and show empathy for others or develop greater self-understanding, a social conscience and interpersonal skills, it’s problematic because those skills tend to require “thinking out loud” side-by-side, asking questions, debating case studies, listening, problem-solving, and in the end, constructing knowledge together.

Then again, it’s probably just a matter of time until on-line instructional software incorporates group video conferencing and other related features that will make all of those more interpersonal aims equally achievable on-line.

Until then I confess to getting more than a little queazy when applicants to the Masters teaching certificate program I coordinate inform me they attended on-line universities. “Is that going to be a problem?” Inner voice, “Hell yeah!” Apart from counseling and diplomacy, I can’t think of any more intensely interpersonal profession than teaching.

I want prospective teachers to be subject-matter experts—which means knowing the elementary curriculum AND eight year olds inside and out or 9th grade physical science AND adolescents. I also know that their success as teachers will hinge as much or more on their ability to get along with students’ families and their fellow teachers and administrators more than their undergraduate grades or teaching licensure test scores. When it comes to adults getting along with one another, every school is dysfunctional, just in different ways and in different degrees.

Isn’t most contemporary work similarly interpersonal? And shouldn’t education be about citizenship as much as it is employment? And doesn’t effective citizenship require well developed interpersonal skills?

Maybe the better, more specific question is what distinguishes good online programs from bad ones? My guess is the best online programs are hybrids that require students to combine their online learning with weekly or monthly face-to-face teaching and learning experiences on brick and mortar campuses.